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Beginning Again

Our next four free audiobooks, arriving in sets of two across two weeks, explore different forms of leaving home, making new homes, and creating identity within new cultures.

From left: Bernard Malamud and Mawi Asgedom

During the week of May 27 – June 2, your new audiobooks include a full-cast stage play based on a short story, thanks to L.A. Theatre Works, and a memoir performed by its author, thanks to Hachette Audio. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bernard Malamud also won the National Book Award for the short story collection in which MAGIC BARREL first was published. The full-cast dramatic performance you can download during SYNC’s fifth week of 2021 earned AudioFile Magazine’s Earphones Award. So, for half an hour’s commitment, both new and experienced audiobook listeners are guaranteed satisfaction. Tony Award winner David Cromer, Sheldon “Shelley” Berman, Marge Kotlisky, Naana Potok, Malcolm Rothman, and Jensen Wheeler sweep us into a mid-20th-century New York where a shy rabbinical student and a well-equipped Old World-style matchmaker consider the prospects.

Paired with this audio play is OF BEETLES AND ANGELS: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard, written and read by Mawi Asgedom. With his family, Mr. Asgedom escaped Ethiopia’s civil war in 1983 and resettled in Illinois. Sixteen years later, he delivered Harvard University’s commencement speech. The title of his memoir comes from teachings his father bestowed on his children, and the book itself has been featured widely in the media since its publication and has been chosen as a one book, one community selection in several communities. You can find out more about the author’s life and work since his memoir’s publication here.

Making a new life in a new place necessarily includes importing traditions while developing new methods and ways of moving forward. Both of the week’s free audiobooks offer insights on how others have achieved a future while respecting both the past and the present. As both are also short listens, we think they’re just right for helping anyone new to the audiobook format hear all the possibilities the art of literary performance can deliver.

The sixth SYNC week takes us even further afield geographically. Thanks to Scholastic Books, Sharon Cameron’s fantasy ROOK, performed by Caroline Feraday, carries listeners off to times that have been—and have been again and again—in once-Britain, formerly Paris, and—well, just listen. This one has romance, high adventure, a dash of dystopian foreboding, and family obligations, all of which Feraday delivers in a performance that keeps listeners glued in place while feeling that they are rocketing forward—and back.

SALTY, BITTER, SWEET, by Mayra Cuevas, performed by Jennifer Jill Araya, and published by Blink, takes us on location to Lyon, France, where teenaged Cuban-American Isa finds herself feeling left out as she meets her divorced dad’s new family. Isa, however, loves to cook, and it turns out that she’s in the right place to enter into an intense cooking competition—and a potential romance, too. Araya is a narrator whom teens will want to follow as she handles multiple languages well and can channel teenaged characters’ varying emotions compellingly. Check out other audiobooks she’s performed after you savor this one.

Where can audiobooks take you? Anywhere here and now, then or someday, around the world and out of it. Where are you taking your SYNC audiobooks this summer? We’d love to see your listening pictures on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Tag them #audiobooksync2021 so we can spot them!

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